01 November, 2009
We Offer Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness
Several years ago I was given a book to read but it ended up in my "to read" pile, and remained there for almost 2 years. Then in 2004 I attended a "Renewal at the Springs" conference at Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs, Georgia, and I met a man who spoke of this same book, "Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness" as one that had changed the focus of his ministry. When I returned home from that conference, I read the book. Right now, I am reading it for probably the 6th or 7th time since then. Jerry Cook was so far ahead of his time when he wrote this book that many never "got it." I wish so badly that someone had put this book in my hands 25 years ago. In the last 5 years, it has changed and shaped my ministry in a profound way. To some it is a catch phrase; to me, it is a model of ministry... offering Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness to people who desperately need it!
Face it... churches CAN BE some of the most judgmental and critical places on the face of the earth. Those who don't know Jesus don't need someone to judge them. They need someone to accept them, just as they are, forgive them for all they've done and point them to the forgiveness that is found in Christ and to love them unconditionally. Unconditionally... that means, that when they blow it, when they stumble or even dive head long into sin... we still love them... just as we did before they fell. That love, that acceptance and that kind of forgiveness is not found in most churches. Face it, it is not. Christians are known for shooting our wounded. It's time to put away the guns and hold out a hand. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, I can tell you that if it had not been for a man who took a chance on me, and loved me when I was an up and down, uncommitted "Christian" and he loved me as I was, and helped to make me a disciple of Christ... I probably would not be alive today. (Thank you Mike!)
I have to say, that while my church certainly has issues of its own, and we may not be the largest church, nor the wealthiest church... our people have grasped the model of ministry that I am trying to model before them and they are some of the most loving, forgiving people I've ever had the privilege to be around. They will accept anyone into our church, regardless of color, economic status, what they have or have not done... they are loved and welcomed in. If you are in the Galesburg area, I hope you will come in and discover this out for yourself.
Harvest Church... I want to say of you... I am so proud to be your Pastor. Nope... you're not perfect... and neither am I... but together, we are working to build a house where Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness is offered to all; and I love you dearly for this!